Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

Assault on a Queen

Finney, Jack

1959, Simon & Schuster

Type. novel
Pros. well-written and suspenseful
Cons. none to speak of

This well-written novel by an author perhaps better known for his Invasion of the Body Snatchers combines fast-paced adventure with psychological study.

Several disparate characters come together to form a group whose goal is to raise a sunken World War I U-boat for an unusual purpose: to stop, board and rob the Queen Mary. Each individual has joined the venture for different reasons, but all are united in their belief that their plan will make them rich with a minimum of effort as well as minimal harm to their victims. After all, they reason, anyone rich enough to take passage on the Queen Mary shouldn't miss the money and jewels they have with them, which should represent only a small amount of their total wealth; but all together, these individual "contributions" will constitute a substantial sum for each of the adventurers. The main character, a young man in his mid-20s, finds he cannot face the dull vista of a business career, which his friends and family consider a secure future, but he sees as a stifling prison. Using the money he will gain from the robbery, he plans to live a life of travel, leisure and adventure.

Each of the would-be pirates brings his or her own expertise to the endeavor. A key individual had been one of the crew of that sunken U-boat, which was brought to rest on the sea bed off the US coast in 1918 when the commander and most of the crew were fatally stricken by influenza. Because it was not scuttled, and due to the shallow depth, it has remained uncrushed and water-tight.

One of the most powerful scenes in the book occurs when the U-boat is raised to the surface, and the former crewman, in 1918 the youngest on board but now middle-aged, contemplates the mummified bodies of his commander and crewmates, frozen in time, forever young, but pathetically dead.

The technical restrictions are such that the U-boat can only make one journey. The conspirators must come up with a strategy to induce the great liner to stop, and a plan for subduing the passengers and collecting their money. They believe they have planned everything to the last detail. But they have overlooked a vital issue that may endanger the entire project…

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 14 Oct 2000.

This title is highly recommended.

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